Emily Hack: Her Story

Emily Hack is a recent graduate with a degree in Civil Structural Engineering and a Bachelor of Science, double majoring in Chemistry from the University of Adelaide.


Emily's STEM story started in primary school, where she excelled at maths.

“I would finish my maths tasks quickly, but whereas the boys that I helped in class were given advanced mathematical problems to solve, I wasn’t.

“Fortunately I have a very supportive mother and she worked with me to find a high school that turned this around and helped me thrive. I forged strong bonds with the others girls in my maths class and we excelled together."

Her graphics calculator was a vital tool and constant companion through high school maths and university.

graphics calculator

Emily's graphics calculator

The role of parents

“Mum has always encouraged me to embrace my quirkiness and go on adventures. She has been such a strong support and inspires me to always be kind, help other people and show you care about them in unique ways with the intention of making people smile and feel appreciated.”

Modified Bratz doll

‘Emily’ Bratz doll. Emily’s mum converted a Bratz doll into a little Emily as an 18th birthday present. She made the clothes, restyled the face and hair and even made a backpack.

Sunflower seeds and cards

Sunflower seeds and cards: When Emily’s mum read about the Random Acts of Kindness movement, they wanted to do something to be part of it. Vincent Van Gogh is someone they both admire and sunflowers are a favourite for both, so they created their own kindness cards and sent sunflower seeds with little thank you notes to people anonymously, just to let them know that they had been noticed and appreciated.

Finding support

University studies for Emily started well but by second and third year she had major doubts. Civil Engineering group work led to her not being offered opportunities to show her potential and she was concerned that work life after university might be similar. Emily sought advice from female academics who assured her that this was not the norm in industry and encouraged her to persevere.

At this time Emily also applied to participate in the University of Adelaide’s Women in STEM Careers Program, which aims to equip female STEM students with the confidence and tools to pursue a long-term career in STEM.

During the program Emily did a confidence workshop. One of the things that changed her mindset was learning about our lizard voice. “It’s the part of our brain that hasn’t developed much since we were lizards. It’s there to keep us safe, but sometimes stops us taking risks and going out of our comfort zone, eg public speaking”. She did an exercise where “we recognised that the lizard voice is only trying to protect us, but that deep down we know we are safe and can move past that little voice and achieve greatness.”

model of a lizard

Model of a lizard

Work experience

While completing her degree, Emily undertook work experience with SA Water and was offered a part-time role as an Asset Management Support Officer.

On completion of her studies she was accepted into their Graduate Program supporting the Water Asset Management Team. The team deals with anything involved in getting drinking water from the water source to the tap, including leakage analysis and developing replacement programs for defective assets.

Being an engineer at SA Water involves working in all areas of water engineering, from traditional pipes to development of meters/sensors. The below Smart Networks Sensor measures the sound of the network to detect leaks, similar to the sensors Emily used at Uni for her honours project.

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Smart Networks Sensor

Active in the community

Outside of work and study Emily has been very involved in the Girl Guide community, being a leader since she was 10. Emily is passionate about helping other people see their potential. As Emily worked toward completing her degree she found it increasingly rewarding to seek volunteering and community-focused activities.

“I’m doing this for my future and so I’ve needed to supplement that with lots of other things within the community to feel like I’m still making an impact wider than myself during this time.”

Queen's guide certificate and badges

Girl Guide badges and certificate: These are the most senior Guide Badges Emily has earnt, including her Queen’s Guide badge, which is the peak achievement award for youth members and is presented at Government House with a certificate from the Queen.

medal of the order of Australia

Order of Australia Student Citizenship award: Emily’s school nominated her for the Order of Australia Student Citizenship award and Emily received this Medallion at Government house for the effort she gave to the school and the wider community through Guiding and Scouting.

Finding a tribe

In Year 11 and 12 Emily’s home class was called ‘Cowan’ after Edith Cowan OBE. They each had a stuffed cow mascot called Moowan. Now Emily’s ‘Moowan’ stores school badges, including the college Sports Captain badge. In this role she was supported by the school leadership to create a shift in the way the school viewed the houses and created events to encourage friendships across year levels, building community and school spirit.

“Find a supportive tribe of women in STEM; it helped me find my place in a STEM career, that led to new opportunities to use my skills and make a positive impact in the world.”

Plush cow toy with medals attached

Emily's cow mascot from her school days

Emily's story is followed by the stories of:

  • Colonel (Ret’d) Pamela Melroy, Former NASA Astronaut and Director, Space Technology and Policy at Nova Systems, 20 August - 15 November 2020

  • Dr Rachael King, Senior Research Scientist at the South Australian Museum, 19 November 2020 - 7 February 2021

This series is made possible with support from the Hon. Dr Diana Laidlaw AM.

Production Partner: Randy Larcombe Film + Stills

Series Partner: The University of Adelaide

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